Managing a team across continents doesn’t need to be a struggle. Here are my top recommendations for resources to lead your remote team to high performance.
Over the past few months, a few clients asked if I could provide additional resources to help them increase the performance of their global remote teams.
Here are three resources which I highly recommend for insights and practical examples of the challenges global teams face and how to overcome them.
1. Use a Framework Many leaders want to increase the performance of their global teams, but they don’t know how to approach the challenge. Having a framework is an essential first step. Tsedal Neeley’s Harvard Business Review article Global Teams That Work: A framework for bridging social distance is an excellent start.
In her S.P.L.I.T. framework, Neeley identifies five sources of social challenges that are unique to global remote teams: Structure, Process, Language, Identity, and Technology.
Structure—How teams are set up influences the perception of power among team members. For example, branch office employees may hold back their engagement if they perceive they are powerless in contributing to the company’s major decisions.
Process—Most companies have protocols to handle tasks, but those protocols do not cultivate relationship building among team members. It is imperative that such processes are set up to foster cohesion instead of relying on the team leader.
Languages—The fact that everyone can communicate in English does not mean each culture interprets how things are being expressed in the same way. Moreover, some might hold back innovative suggestions if they feel their language is not sufficient.
Identities—How we see ourselves and those with different worldviews from us influences the way we interact. Training on ethnocentricity and cultural biases reduce the risk of unnecessary misunderstanding. I provide more details about this in my articles on giving feedback across cultures and managing conflict among team members from different cultures.
Technology—We are presented with questions such as, do we use synchronous or asynchronous communication? Is there a technology platform that best serves different teams’ needs? We should consider that some platforms that are easily accessible in the US might be cumbersome for team members in other locations.
If you want to dig deeper, Neeley’s recent book titled Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere digs deeper into the different aspects of global teams.
2. Explore the Cultural Variations. Cultural differences are often fault lines that lead to breakdowns in global teams. The high mobility of today’s workforce seems to reduce some surface-level cultural differences, but the underlying worldviews are not as easily transformed. Moreover, we have to be cautious of subtle cultural nuances. For example, a Mainland Chinese engineer who works in the US on a three-year visa will be different from another Mainland Chinese who moved to the US with his family as a teenager.
The solution? Learn where cultural variations can create tensions at work, and be respectful and curious.
Erin Meyer’s book The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business provides in-depth, research-based insights into these critical differences, such as different communication preferences, power dynamics, handling disagreements, and concepts of time. The book is full of case studies that help us understand how these variations can break trust.
3. Acquire Some Tools. Remote work is here to stay. Do you know what a high-performing virtual team looks like? Do you have tactical tools to motivate your remote team members and to hold them accountable? How can you build cohesive teams? How do you hire and onboard remote members?
Citrin and DeRosa’s book Leading at a Distance: Practical Lessons for Virtual Success gives easy-to-implement tools to lead your remote or virtual team. Their suggestions are based on extensive surveys and research among virtual teams that are struggling, along with those that are high-performing. As with the previous two resources, you will find numerous examples of how those teams use those tools for their success.
In conclusion, global remote teams are becoming more common. These resources help leaders guide global remote teams across cultures and geographical locations. If you need resources beyond what is covered here, reach out to me stating the particular area of leading global teams and I’ll be happy to share my knowledge.
What are some unique challenges in your global team? Do you have innovative ways to overcome some of your challenges? Please share with us in the comments below!